VR is it on Life Support for L&D?

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VR is it on Life Support for L&D?

Raise your hand if you were one of the folks who bought into the whole VR will achieve great success in L&D and Training.   Raise your hand if you attended a seminar at a trade show and walked away, excited about this new technology and how it can be utilized for L&D/Training.

Raise your hand if you put on a VR headset at a trade show or seminar.  Raise your hand if you recall that it was sanitized before you put it on, and if not, be thrilled you did not become patient zero for pink eye.

I will readily admit I drank the Kool-Aid (on a side note, the phrase was coined after Jonestown in 78, but I digress). I attended a VR show in London in 2016, and walked away seeing the potential for L&D/Training. 

I remember presenting a seminar at ATD, I think it was 2017 on immersive learning tied around AR, VR and MR.  Then in 2018 the floodgates opened at ATD started to have quite a few sessions on VR.  eLearning Guild ended their mobile learning show and jumped over to one on immersive learning (with many sessions on VR). 

A huge buzz with articles in ATD magazine, other articles in L&D, Training, HR around VR.  It seemed it was going to blast off.

On the consumer side, smartphones using VR headsets was being heavily pushed. Google Cardboard, Samsung Galaxy VR and so on.   The numbers indicated great success, but if you looked deeply, you would see that the #1 seller was the $10 Google Cardboard.

Soon, those ads started to disappear, the smartphone VR market went right into the tank.

Don’t worry, though VR headsets were the new rage.  Oh, should have noted, that to assure you didn’t get motion sickness, you needed to have it tethered to your computer to achieve the 90fps. 

No matter, self-contained headsets were coming.   Oculus arrive on the scene.  Not at 90fps, but it was new and exciting.  Not a lot of buys though.  Playstation had one (still does).  Gamers excited, L&D? Ehh not really.   Oculus Quest rumbled – I bought one (my experience down below).  And so on.

Wal-Mart and Other Behemoths

Big fans of VR.  Achieving great success with VR – with their L&D/Training.  Numerous publications cited these companies with VR for learning.   Yeah, Woo-hoo.  Oh, one small issue.

Cost.   These entities could afford to pay for custom VR content.   Which was not (and still not) cheap.  One company I know who creates VR custom content, charges over 60,000 pounds  (around 80K US) for a low tier version. 

Actually another issue. Headsets.  They are not free.  You have to buy one to view that VR content as VR, and not just 360 panoramic. If you want the latter, you can see it on YouTube and plenty of other sites, using your mobile device and that $10 Google Cardboard thing.

VR – Immersive Learning with Other Tools

Authoring Tools with VR

A few exist, the biggest one – name wise was Lectora CenarioVR – now under the eLearning Brothers moniker.   The problem with CenarioVR is that it isn’t 100% true VR.  It is more on the 360 experience. Fine for some folks, but not something I would go out and buy.

Some of the other “authoring tool” companies that were designed 100% VR were a mixed bag.  And not gaining mass traction (and I’d argue still are not).

And other authoring tools in the market – including the big names? Zero capabilities to design VR content.

Overall results to date – Below Average in terms of sales –  the masses have yet to come.

VR LMSs

Yee-Haw, they exist.  Less than 10 in the industry, but they are out there.  If you do not have a VR headset, don’t worry, you can still view and use them with your mobile device (ideally a tablet), they just appear as 3D.  User experience as a whole, a work in progress.  This is due, uh, you know, to having that custom content, which uh, has zero course standards.  So, yeah, use your headset, see the content, look at a couple some metrics, then decide maybe an FTP is a better route.

LMSs in General

Want to view your custom VR content on your current LMS?  You may or may not be able to.  Some accept it, others do not.  Even if they do, think of the hassle, because the LMS is not VR.  Thus if your employee puts on their  self-contained headset then uses their webVR browser they get to the site, and it is not VR.  Take off headset.  Access via whatever device you are using – mobile, laptop, desktop, etc.  Pick the content.  Put on headset. See the content, use the content.

Try to not use it for more than 30 minutes in one sitting to reduce the chance of motion sickness.   Want to totally eliminate that issue? Tether your VR headset to your laptop/desktop, just make sure it will work with that laptop/desktop.   Oh, and don’t expect to go far.

Impediments to VR Adoption

As a whole, including the consumer market, VR headsets have not achieved mass adoption.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1.  Cost of Self-Contained headset.  It is by no means cheap.  Oculus Quest will set you back about $400 USD for the 64GB, and around 500 for the 128GB – which trust me, you will want this version.  HTC-Vive which is the best standalone headset out there, ranges from $550 to $900 dollars (before tax) – and that is for the consumer grade.  Their Pro version can easily push into 1,200 USD.    Oh, and that isn’t including some of the accessories you might need.  Going back to Quest, you will want to buy Quest specific headphones, because the sound out of Quest itself is mind-numbing.  A travel case is also needed.  Total cost with 128GB,  close to $600 before tax.

Think about that.  You want VR at your company for L&D.  Probably need at least two, maybe three.  One won’t cut it, for the entire company, when you train.  Let’s just say, you get three, ignore the headphones, but buy the case.  That will set you back around $1,600 USD. 

But what about the content?  Right now it is custom or VR authoring tool.  Wait there’s more.

Perhaps, you decide to just use some of the content that is available on Quest or Vive for your training/L&D.  For Quest there exists sort of “seminar” type of experience that you can do – it is hard to explain, but it is free. Easily could do a workshop of sorts.  Oh, and if you want to buy content, Quest is per item, Vive charges you around $108 a year for total access.

I have my Self-Contained VR headset(s) for L&D/Training – Ready. Set. uh Go?

2. One topic most of those seminars (okay, every one I have ever attended) fail to mention using the headset in a location, in other words, what you will need to do to ensure that your employees are not running into walls, or a conference table or classroom seats.

If you are used to providing training/learning in a conference room, you need to remove the furniture.  Classroom setting?  Take away all the desks.  Out of the floor somewhere, make sure, there isn’t anything there that is sharp or someone can walk into when their headset is on.  

Be sure, that you are not in a place with low ceilings. – I can tell you first hand, that I once broke a finger, jumping up while playing a game.  And yes, despite the pain, I had to finish. 

Why you may ask, why do I need to remove the furniture, and have the space barren of everything including the trash can?  Well, when someone has on a headset, they are not paying attention to where they are walking. 

Secondly, with Quest, it explicitly tells you that you need to set up the room, by mapping the space, in other words, “your playspace”, which allows you to set up boundaries. Vive follows a similar premise.

But what about the content?

I’m getting there. Did I mention it has to be custom for L&D or Training? If you want 100% True VR with high quality -i.e. 4K and interactivity/engagement.

Fun Facts you need to know when you use a Self-Contained VR headset

  • Right now, none of them are at 90FPS.  Quest 2, rumored to be coming out this Fall, will be 90FPS.  Cost is unknown.
  • You must have a WiFi connection.  Accessing content isn’t doable without it. And now with folks working from home, the WiFi speed will play a big role.  If your VR content is intense with capabilities,  and your WiFi speed is 20mbs, you are going to have a miserable experience.  I have 1GB, but the majority of people don’t.
  • Glasses.  If you wear them, you will likely need to use an eyeglass spacer – Quest comes with one.  I should add that at least for Quest – your glasses can be no more than 142mm or less for width, and for height 50mm or less.  Otherwise, you are out of luck.

VR may not be my cup of tea. What about AR?

Definitely a better route to go, overall.  The majority of people today have a smartphone, and downloading an app to use with AR is simple.  No need to worry on a variety of things, but, uh, oh wait…

  • For L&D or Training – you will need this thing called content – learning wise.  None of the apps for AR that I found, are for leadership skills or safety or personal development per-se.
  • Many companies are now recommending that you have 5G on your smartphone for the ideal experience.  How many of you have that now?  As now, not that many. 

Okay, forget that, I want MR – Mixed Reality.

Probably not. Still not ready for prime-time. A couple exist, but better to go back to AR at least.

Combination VR/AR Self-Contained Headset

This is the future.  This is where the market is heading and this is for now the best of both worlds.  By having the combination, you are creating a “use one, achieve all” angle.  Eventually they will have A.I. in them (a key capability) and other features, such as 5G that take VR and AR to a whole new level. And perhaps an alternative to MR. 

Lenovo was the first ones to enter this market, with the Think Reality platform, which is device agnostic. Simply add your AR device, VR device to the platform and you are off to go.  A headset is still needed though. 

Which again leads back to the problem of mass adoption – headset and cost. 

Back to L&D and Training – How to gain wide-spread adoption

  1. Cost has to drop dramatically.  Folks in L&D and Training have enough problems budget wise to land a learning system.  Talking to get buy-in for a VR self-contained headset that costs $500 dollars and you need six, is a difficult task, especially with the cost of custom content.
  2. Off-The-Shelf content has to be developed by at least one off-the-shelf content provider in the market.  The first topic is likely safety or compliance.  Other topics would be sales related, leadership skills, working with a group or similar communications with employees and some type of professional development.  The cost has to be low. 

This means the content provider is going to have to eat the cost for development because they can’t charge what it costs them to build it.  We are likely talking no more than $50 a seat (with a minimum number to buy).   I doubt someone will drop $100 for 100 seat licenses for example.  

Oh, and the off-the shelf should have some type of course standard, ideally xAPI.  You will want to capture metrics here, and not just who viewed type of thing.

Combo the Deal to Gain Adoption

An ideal approach is include at least one self-contained headset with the off-the shelf content.  Then the content provider can offer a special discount for the client (i.e. buyer) to purchase more headsets (the way to achieve this is to strike a partnership deal with one of the self-contained headset providers). 

The combo is the best way to grow adoption, the off-the-shelf with some type of a course standard at a low price point per seat is a game-changer for L&D and Training, because content is really the elephant here.  

Bottom Line

Don’t buy into the hype that VR with L&D is rocking and rolling.  Don’t buy into the hype that due to COVID, VR is going to take off, because that cost issue for consumers, is a key factor in why adoption is poor. 

Ignore the hype that with COVID, L&D will embrace VR because well, it is fantastic for training or learning. 

The only embrace that will exist for now,

Is one that doesn’t include VR.

Not without low cost off-the-shelf content.

And an affordable self-contained headset

At 90FPS.

E-Learning 24/7

For those wondering – ZTE and China Mobile successfully tested 8K VR, with 100% FOV (Field of Vision).